Netscape Cannot Win
Monday November 6th, 2000
I have recently become convinced that Netscape is fighting a losing battle against third-party micro-managing in their attempt to produce a browser for market.
The first conflict was with the raving loonies of the WSP. The WSP whines and bitches about standards compliance. They create a petition to convince Netscape to switch to development of their "Gecko" rendering engine technology, which promises greater standards compliance. They take credit for the Mozilla project moving to this new technology.
Then, they decide that the WSP is much more concerned about dictating project deadlines than standards compliance, and demand that Netscape release a product before the end of the year 2000, and stop any more work on Netscape 4.x -- including security fixes, apparently. (And read below to see what their fearless leader had to say today).
Now, a guy named Dave Flanagan has determined that Netscape 6 is too non-compliant to be released, although any reasonable, objective assessment of the application would prove that it is much more compliant than any browser currently on the market (yet you don't hear Mr. Flanagan petitioning against the release of iCab or IE6 or Konqueror).
And guess what? Mr. Flanagan has a petition you can sign, telling Netscape to hold off release of Netscape 6! But you can also use his petition to log your dissent.
[Mr. O'Reilly, I'm saddened that you signed an assent to Mr. Flanagan's petition without making an assessment of Netscape 6's standards compliance.
And Mr. Zeldman, I was dismayed, but not surprised, to read your statement in which you backtrack on the WSP's call for product release by the end of the year, when you obviously have not done an honest assessment of Netscape's standards compliance. "Releasing a close-to-perfect standards-compliant browser would be fine. (No software is perfect.) But releasing a browser with seriously buggy, incomplete standards support will not serve Netscape, will not serve developers, and will not serve the cause of web standards."]
I have made it known to a few people that I will no longer be fielding Netscape news on my site. You may see news of product releases, but you will no longer see links to reviews, complaints, rants, or any other information having to do with the Netscape product.
This site is called MozillaZine for a reason. I started it to support the Mozilla Open Source project. Along the way, I tried to be a voice of support for Netscape as it navigated the murky waters of being a commercial contributor to an open project. But what I am confronted with is the fact that if I were to continue posting Netscape news I would be forced to continue posting links to this garbage, giving it more credibility than it deserves. Look what happened when news of Mr. Flanagan's petition hit Slashdot. The petition now overflows with rants against Netscape, and I bet not one of these ravers has done even a modest assessment of Netscape 6's standards compliance. Is that the kind of support you wanted Mr. Flanagan? If you can get lots of people to raise their voices, does the din drown out their ignorance?
In any case, this crap will no longer will find a home in MozillaZine. So, take a good long look. Gaze into Mr. Flanagan's eyes. Because he's the last guy with an axe to grind against Netscape that you will see in these pages. The last armchair-marketer to get a say on this site. You'll have to go elsewhere to get your fix. (However, I allow myself an exception to clobber the hell out of the WSP if they continue to act like pussies.)
Netscape is in the unenviable position of choosing between bug-fixes and product release - the Scylla and Charybdis of software development. They've set their course. Maybe they will stop and reassess. That's up to the Netscape managers and the PDT team. But the waters grow increasingly insipid, and they might just end up deciding that it's not worth the trouble and pack it all up and call it a day. Maybe they can put in the past this peanut-gallery micro-management Hell that they've fallen into.
I'll leave you with a very thoughtful post to the n.p.m.layout newsgroup by Dylan Schiemann.
#40 Great article Chris
Tuesday November 7th, 2000 9:35 PM
You are replying to this message
I've heard Chris give Netscape Hell for promising standards, so I reject the argument that his argument is one-sided.
This guy has a point that Netscape might being a little overzealous with the NO CODE IN!!! bit for pre-RTM, but he's evidently got clue 0 how badly Netscape-AOL wants the browser gold, and no clue that once you start a marketing campaign in motion (and Netscape 6 already has pretty extensive site pre-release, inc. N6 Home and the Theme Park, etc. Flannagan's whinings are FAR, FAR too late for delaying RTM. Netscape didn't hear a damned word he wrote -- trust me.
As someone (Asa? Kerz?) pointed out in IRC, Netscape 4.0 was awful. Netscape 6 is not awful. In fact, it's a pretty damned fine 1.0 product.
*Linux, more than any other platform, really needs Netscape 6 NOW. On Linux, with Netscape 6 I can go to work, log in to my Linux machine, and check AOL mail, use IM, log in to WebMail, Calendar, etc. Just in so supporting AOL as it does, Netscape 6 single-handedly brings AOL services to Linux, and for once a browser that doesn't have horrifically tiny and difficult-to-read fonts.
* Communicator 4.75 on Linux makes me want to buy bifocals now and my vision is fine (I'm only 28). The default fonts in Mozilla and Netscape 6 for Linux are now far, FAR more readable than they are in 4.75, and at long, LONG last the fields and default backgrounds are white. Surfing in Linux is now almost exactly like doing so in Windows, and it rocks.
* No developer EVER sets the standards in stone for a "platform" -- Windows 2000 took 6 months for SP1, and companies mostly waited that long to even buy the product. If .0 releases were perfect, there would be no reason for a .5, or .75, or, etc., etc., companies would leap from 6.0 to 7.0 and so on. Developers aren't morons, they know this. Things change, and so do standards. It's not like Netscape 6 will forever lock away technologies that were a little buggy in 6.0.
*Netscape 6.1 will be out in a couple/few months, and (going by the new Roadmap of Mozilla 1.0, by March 2001) we'll have a 6.5 by spring. Netscape has promised a regular release schedule after 6 comes out, with Netscape 7 hoped for by this time 2001 (from the an Mozillazine IRC chat).
* By the time developers even get their heads around what Netscape 6 has to offer (or the fact that it's out even), 6.1 will be out.
Bottom line: Everyone needs to accept that Netscape's RTM for version 6 is locked and loaded. Time to get over 6.0 and look to 6.1. I think the WSP just feels useless unless they're badmouthing Netscape.